‘The soul of revolt against man’s inhumanity to man, the ripest ear of corn that fell in Easter Week.’ —Sean O’Casey on Frank Sheehy-Skeffington
A solo play about Frank Sheehy-Skeffington, pacifist, feminist, socialist, atheist, summarily executed in Dublin, Easter Week 1916.
Lights up on a man begging, a sleeping bag like a cloak on his back.
So I’m sittin there beside the AT fuckin M opposite the Swan in Rathmines with my styrofoam cup, and this redneck bluebottle looks down at me and says —I’m arresting you for beggin if you don’t get the fuck away from that AT fuckin M.
And I say—Is that what occurs to you to do when you see an Irish bank ATM? Arrest the guy who’s beggin beside it!? Do you realise how fucked-up that is!? We the Irish people are paying 43% of European bank debt because of the fuckin crimes of the people who run that ATM! So there’s no host in your fuckin tabernacle—whah!?
This makes the bluebottle agitated and he says he’ll fuckin pepper-spray me. I stride away brushing me shitty sleepin bag against him. All he sees is a crusty leper that needs clearing ouha da way o da smooth runnin o da gaff.
C’mere to me, he shouts, I’m not finished with you yet— I let on I don’t hear but he’s after me and I start to leg it down the Rathmines Road, but he’s young and blood-up and me laces are loose and a bit of pins and needles from the sitting down too long, so I can hear his studded bootsteps catching up on me. He somehow stamps on the tail of my sleepin bag, that’s become, by some fuckin weirdness, an ancient cloak stretching way back up the road— it’s the clobber of fuckin history I’m always dragging along, the nightmare James Joyce was always trying to awaken from, and this gobshite’s after making it manifest fuck knows how, he’s trodden on the fabric of the nation I didn’t know was hanging off my shoulders, I fall back in slo-mo, choking on the zip and I recite James Joyce’s thunderword from Finnegans Wake as an incantation to protect me against bluebottle aggression— it’s a trick I sometimes pick out of the old back pocket when I’m caught in a tight spot—
Bluebottle’s shittin himself, thinks I’m after putting some kind of Satanic curse on him, which allows me a split second of respite to ponder the following:
Clip-clopping along to Glasnevin, clip-clopping along to Glasnevin, just a crate on a cart from Portobello Barracks to Glasnevin Cemetery. What’s in the crate, Mister!? Head down, none of your business!
The bluebottle‘s recovered from his attack of superstition. He tugs and I am enfolded in the shitty sleeping-bag of history, as the Rathmines Town Hall chimes ten o’clock… It’s the 26th April 1916, the Wednesday of Easter Week. A volley of shots rings out in Portobello Barracks, Rathmines.
A crow gives a big long caw. Another volley a minute later! Frank Sheehy-Skeffington is dead. The bluebottle twists the zip and triggers a flash of now—ow— A million Irish voices roar: ‘Frank WHO!?’
Frank Sheehy-Skeffington!! See!!?? He’s fuckin forgotten, ignored, And by many who know who he was he’s ridiculed and laughed at. Why!? Because in Dublin in Easter Week 1916 James Joyce’s best friend, the little atheist he called Hairy Jaysus, was trying… to stop… the looting! Isn’t that a good one!? Thousands putting their lives on the line, occupying buildings all over Dublin and firing shots all around them for the freedom of fuckin Ireland, and Skeffy was… trying to stop the looting! What a fuckin gobshite he musta been! A buffoon! A clown! Very fuckin hairy taking such a Jaysusin figairy… What possessed him!? What was he thinking of!? Why, why, why!? Here’s Hairy Jaysus’s cross and passion! Francis Sheehy-Skeffington in The Stations of The—not Cross, no—The Stations of The Crank! Small instrument that makes Revolutions!
The First Station: Liberty Hall, Dublin, Noon, Easter Monday 1916. The illustrious occasion is about to commence!
James Connolly musters the Citizen army and the Irish Volunteers the cause of Ireland is the cause of labour And the cause of labour is the cause of… Frank Sheehy-Skeffington hanging around the edges
—Comrade Connolly, on a point of order by whose authority has this armed alliance been convened!?
I push him into the back lane til Connolly gives the order and off they march around the corner to the GPO and into the history books…
—James Connolly, friend, comrade, why do you deny me!?
On Palm Sunday in Liberty Hall we cheered for Skef-fy Skef-fy if we had palms we’d have laid them down at his feet, beside James Connolly after their doublebill of plays, ‘In Ibsen’s play A Doll’s House, the heroine Nora goes out the door to an indeterminate future. In my pointed comedy, The Prodigal Daughter, Lily goes out to campaign on the steps of her local church for Votes For Women! That’s revolutionary action!’ Connolly clasps him as if he’s going to kiss him. Then he cites his own play, Under Which Flag?, whether to fight for Britain or Ireland…
—There are guns in the hands of tens of thousands of Irishmen in the British Army in Flanders! Why not guns in our hands in Dublin city here today!?
And a company of the Citizen Army marches in the door, and everyone cheers as the men and women drill on the floor. Skeffy walks off the stage, leaving Connolly to talk about channelling the rage to make the maximum impact.
Second Station: City Hall, 1pm, Easter Monday.
A soldier gashed open at the side of City Hall. Skeffy to the chemist on the corner! Bayonet accident! Terrible mess! Skip back with bundles of bandages clutched to find the soldier’s been dragged inside the gates of Dublin’s Castle. Cross! Fire! Skeffy flattens up against a door. Lucky he never put the weight back on after the hunger strike last year…
—Silence in court! Francis Sheehy-Skeffington, you are found guilty of sedition for making forty speeches against recruitment to His Majesty’s armed forces…
—That’s right… forty! The Castle spy who followed me can count! Though he missed a fair few! I wouldn’t give him the full thirty pieces of silver if I were you! Damn pity I didn’t get to make another forty anti-war speeches too!
—Should I be silent while the slaughter of innocents proceeds!? And where articulate resistance to this organised murder is deemed to be a crime!? Damn your war! Non serviam! I will not serve! I will not kow-tow! I will not bow and scrape! Any sentence you pass on me is a sentence passed on British rule in Ireland. The Irish people do not subscribe to this imperialist war!
—You are sentenced to one year’s hard labour! (Aside) See if you’re as vocal in the stonebreakers’ yard!
—Try as you might, you’ll not shut me up! Long before the expiration of the sentence, I will be out of prison, alive or dead!
—Remove this unmanageable crank from my court!
—Damn your war!
Mountjoy Jail! —Seán MacDermott, volunteer head honcho, you here too! For an anti- recruitment speech? Good man, sure one is a start! We’ll hunger strike while the iron is hot! A hunger strike by two such as we, relatively prominent in the public eye— Seán don’t be shy—would undermine their recruitment drive for the war! They’ll release us before the week is out! The price of freedom is hunger! My wife Hanna did it! For votes for women three years ago! Why should it be left to women alone to hunger strike for rights!? Now, stop even thinking about eating!
Of course, it’ll be hard for you, ‘cos they’ll fry rashers and sausages outside the door. They did it on Hanna, not realising she’s vegetarian. So am I. I’d appreciate it if you didn’t illuminate them further or they’ll stink us out with scabby cabbage and burnt turnip pooh, making it an even more miserable situation for everyone. Mount of Joy how are you!!
Day one, day two, day three… Day four, they say, is the worst. Some instinctive reaction in the stomach that will not be quelled! The days move slower, and the nights lie still. The crows outside Mountjoy are deafeningly loud, and the lovers walking home along the prison wall seem to roar their sweet nothings as if they’re in the cell. Day Five, no word, they think they can ignore us… Day Six, escalate to hunger-and-thirst strike! Day seven, day eight—surely they’re not going to just let us… Door opens, set free. On a Sunday to avoid publicity! Trousers won’t stay up – button them to the waistcoat. A car, I’m fine, absolutely f… the chug-chug… Outside the garden gate, little Owen runs to meet me. I try to say Owen but just manage Oh… Hanna helps me walk the path, step, in, dizzy, sit, water, and a little piece of toast, wet it til it softens, slide it down the throat…
Third Station: Nelson’s Pillar, 4pm, Easter Monday.
Hanna in a rush to the GPO, Frank says no.
—My place is on the outside, I won’t join in!
—Frank, we’re officially citizens of the Irish Republic! The Proclamation guarantees equal rights to everyone, men and women, what we’ve campaigned for is achieved! Worth celebrating!
—You go so Hanna…! Take care, don’t stay long! When the response comes it will be sudden and it will be strong. Hanna…
Coming up to Christmas 1900, the wheezy Sheehy doorbell clangs and I enter in my jaunty new plus-fours. I’m a different kind of student come all the way from Cavan via Down, my knickerbockers scream. James Joyce giddies in behind me.
—Get out of my way, Hairy Jaysus!
He makes a beeline for the wine and the continental cheeses.
Ha-ha-ha-Hanna and her sister Mary Shee-hee lead the charades But Joyce soon barrooms into Greek mytholohee-hee. He pretends he’s Aphrodite stepping from her clam-shell. He coyly covers his pee-wee… tee-hee… I become one of Boticelli’s Three Graces twee with Hanna and Mary Shee-hee, hand to hand we twirl nimble nymphs so fay… I see us nude with our berry-food at hand. I sway my beard from side to side to the roars of the loudy-crowdy. Knickerbocker-kick! Hanna’s haunches and hips sheer I try not to leer, and a pearl hangs from her neat Vermeer. Hanna focussed, gaze straight, no jokey, pupils dilate, oh, fingers touch, the slightest stroke, oh, I cough, trip, nearly choke. Hannaah!
But I won’t follow you into the GPO, for a gun-toting tête-à-tête with MacDermott and Connolly. They’ve consigned me to the outside, so be it. Shop windows shatter up the street, people wearing fur stoles and silk top hats appear
—Would you look at the state of me now!!??
—Would you look at the state of me now!!??
The state of me now… Marooned, in no-man’s-land… They call it the rock of Futility, an isolated shore, where no rain falls, where no wind blows, where no bird calls, where no plant grows. Stillness, in a sea of cobblestones and glass. Men I knew, chiselling loopholes in brick, and rolling gigantic wooden print spools for barricades, while I stand stuck, tied in the idle of futility.
Fourth Station: Grosvenor Square, Rathmines, 9pm, Easter Monday.
Silence. Huff. Owen put to bed.
—Hanna. Stuff to discuss. Her brow knits, her cheeks puff.
—You knew the rising was to happen and you didn’t tell me. Pause. Moon.
—I was sworn to silence, Frank.
—But not to me!
—Yes, especially to you!
—By James Connolly!
—Why did you agree?
—He asked me to be one of five members of a Civil Government to be declared if the rising leaders are killed. A woman in government Frank! First time ever! Even if it’s theoretical, and anyway only nominal! But still! Significant!
Betrayed? Too strong! Distrusted? Too weak! Kept out of the action! Why? Too meek? I feel like a little boy at my father’s knee, the schools inspector educating me at home, manipulating my influences until I broke free.
—Connolly couldn’t look at me today! Now I know why!
—I’m sorry, Frank.
Going home after that 1900 Christmas Hann-ahaha-hadvent I stick a sprig of cherry-blossom in my hair. —Is this love, Joyce… what do you think? He says, ‘a poet must write tragedies, not act in one.’ I’ll act in the comedy, the tragedy, the work, the play… whatever life-love makes it, come what may. Liove. I will liove. Joyce found his way to liove too. Went east with his Galway chambermaid.
Still together, last I heard! He’s put me in his book with the long pretentious title. Portrait of the Artist as a Troubled Know-it-all. I’m a boring character called McCann full of his own conceit, who eats a lot of chocolate. Hanna likes chocolate. The early days… Hanna the light and Hanna the word, me the pacifist, pen not sword! Oh the debates, the teasing out, the tos-and-fros in the basement cellars and rooms and back-bureaus, them was days! Hannaargh! Liove! I will liove!
She had me sent to America after my Mountjoy slimming escapade. It was liove that made it happen, her liove for me. She put me out of the way of the Cat-and-Mouse act or I’d have been in and out of Mountjoy like a jack-in-the-box, an inch or two thinner each time.
Stayed with Joyce’s old friend Byrne from 7 Eccles Street, nice place he has in Brooklyn now, he’s landed on his feet and made a new life, full of bustling activity, of the peculiarly Irish kind. I went and met the Wobblies, socialists, communists, anarchists, feminists, suffragists and the black rights folk. But John Devoy-devoy-devoy had me shunted out of harm’s way at every hand’s turn with my ‘naïve divisive views’ by his cigar-toting wide-brimmed double-breasted cronies…
—Let’s hear a song from the old sod! Sentimental baloney! Not one Clan na Gael platform did I grace. Traded funny stories with Byrne about Jocax Joyce. He kept me sane. It felt futile pretending I was there at the Clan’s invitation while they pushed me out of sight with fervent application. Back here for Christmas last, Owen grown a full inch taller! He’s taking after the other side…
A rifle shot! Not too far away!
An old geezer said someone’s in the belltower of Rathmines Church, sniping across into Portobello Barracks. Wait till tomorrow comes. A response will arrive in time, the bells will chime as the bullets rain. Will it all be in vain…? Will we end up stuck in Joyce’s societal paralysis again? He’d probably think so. But I don’t know. At least they’ve made a mark, put out a shout. How do I participate, civilly, in critical… if not support, let us say comprehension, without becoming a willing party to military action? There’s not much room for a minority position. With us or ag’in us… this is a defining time. It’s happened, and it must be dealt with.
Fifth Station: The Irish Women’s Franchise League office, Westmoreland Street, 5pm, Easter Tuesday.
Frank on his hands and knees charcoaling big squares of paper
NO LOOTING BY ORDER ANTI-LOOTING COMMITTEE
Hanna rushes up the stairs —Time to go home, Frank! Things are getting out of control! —Well indeed, quelle surprise! —Army reinforcements are encroaching on the city centre, tightening their grip! —Well, your confidante James Connolly has said organise, educate, agitate for years! But the war reminds him of his British army days in India, and the forthright methods sometimes required to get things done. So he starts training and drilling in the use of guns, and now he’s talking about ‘our gallant allies’ the Germans as if they’re somehow less imperialistic than our own John Bull when if anything they’re arguably even worse in their treatment of Africans!
—Frank, our friends and comrades, including James Connolly, have held the centre of Dublin for thirty hours against the most powerful empire on earth! Is that not a matter of considerable joy!? —If it’s joy, it’s a dangerous joy! All I can do is try to stop the looting, so it doesn’t look like hooligans run amok. That’s the only role left open to me now, what I’ve been reduced to, thanks to Connolly… and you!
—Frank! What’s the name of the magazine James Joyce’s novel has been appearing in? I forget! We laughed at the funny title! Remind me!
—The Egoist, that’s it! Yes, we all must be careful not to think, as James Joyce did and presumably still does, that the universe revolves around us. An historical event is taking place in which you’re not, at present, playing a central role. But in which you will, in time! That gunfire we hear is the sound of challenge, not compliance.
—But it’s challenge the old way, the same methods of armed aggression and blind obedience.
—Where there are guns there must be obedience!
—This is futile! I’m on my bloody knees. Nowhere I can stand. Nowhere I can speak. Nowhere I can make the case against the military spirit that infects humanity. I’m a pacifist journalist who can no longer make a living.
—I can. Just about! I teach. We’re equal, remember, Sheehy Skeffington?
—I haven’t had a jot published since I went to jail! London, Dublin, it doesn’t matter they’re agreed. I’ve been expelled from the citadel… to slow death in the stoney plain, like Dante’s doomed friend Cavalcanti. —Melodrama, Frank, you know you have a weakness for it…
—Melodrama!? Farce!! There’s nobody coming for my anti-looting committee meeting, because they think I’m a bloody buffoon.
—Bloody Buffoon!? That’s what your dad called you when you joined my name to yours, Sheehy Skeffington! —As a consequence a lot of people think I’m an aristocratic double-barrelled toff!
—Not the people who matter, you bloody buffoon!
—Don’t crank me up, Hanna!
—Crank!? That’s what the university’s president called you when you resigned your cushy job as registrar over unequal treatment of women. ‘Frank, there’s no future in being written off as a crank,’ he said. ‘A crank,’ retorted Frank Sheehy Skeffington…
—is a small instrument that makes revolutions! Oh yes, by order, the anti-revo-looting committee!
—Frank, my crank! Hug?
—Not by a long shot, Hanna! Not yet!
—I still love you no matter what you think.
—A funny way of showing it!
—How long will you keep this up? I’m off home! Don’t dilly-dally! Liove! Time to call it a day!
Sixth Station: Kelly’s of Portobello the first time, 6pm, Tuesday 26 April.
I’m Dickson with a cheque for a tenner in advance from Kelly the loyalist councillor publican who wants me to print and post up on walls the King’s proclamation of martial law telling everyone to go home or get shot. Kelly’s been fleeced of his stock of expensive cigars and fine wines by the tenement-dwellers out the back of his premises. Fair enough, I said. I go running around trying to knock up every bloody printer I know and it’s getting a bit harem-scarem ‘cos I haven’t a clue where the rebels are, they’re poppin up everywhere and soldiers are making sorties out of Portobello Barracks, when who do I see walking up the middle of the street from town with a bucket of paste and a brush and a roll of posters but… the man I used to report on for making seditious speeches… Frank Sheehy Skeffington, Hairy feckin Jaysus!
—No looting, he shouts! Sure everybody laughs and jeers. —Leave ‘im alone, a fat vintage wine-guzzler says, he fed my childer during the Lockout, Hairy Jaysus is alright. Sit down and give us an oul smacker, me gamey little Lothario… —I don’t care if you think I’m alright or not, citizenship has its duties as well as its rights, and one of them is to prevent theft. —So what are you going to do about it, a loudmouth shouts. —What’ll I do!? Well, I may be five foot two, but I’m not afraid of you or anyone else who threatens my right to public protest. I’m going to put up these anti-looting posters. You don’t want to be like the traders in the temple!? You know what happened to them! Whipped and run out of it! —Yeah, holy Jesus threw the head, but you’re not holy – you’re hairy Jaysus the atheist! —I’ll give you a hand, I say, give me your posters there. I take them and I walk up towards the Canal Bridge. —Where are you going? he shouts.
Seventh Station. The Checkpoint 7pm, Easter Tuesday.
We just secured the canal bridge when we saw a crowd approaching. —This man has been putting up rebel posters, says the first. —My name is Francis Sheehy-Skeffington, I’m a militant pacifist, I’m proud to say I’ve been jailed for it, but those are NOT rebel posters, they are anti-looting posters. I believe that property, as well as having its duties, which it is far too often loathe to perform, also has its rights, until such time as due democratic process might wisely decree otherwise.
—Bursts of gunfire! Half-a-mile away! Take him in! Martial Law has been declared! Get off the streets! I fire in the air and off they scatter. One small boy is smoking a giant Cuban cigar. He gives my men a puff of it, and they have a hearty laugh as they trudge back up to the barracks, prisoner in tow.
Eighth Station: The Detention Cell, Portobello Barracks, 8pm, Easter Tuesday.
Guard, could you ask someone to get a message to my wife? She’s in the garden flat in 10 Grosvenor Square, not far, ten minutes. Maybe the little boy who followed us in with the fat cigar would run around. I can hear him coughing his lungs up. He can’t miss it. It’s got a big Damn Your War banner stuck in the hedge outside. I know there’s a human being residing inside that uniform, and I know he has a pair of ears and brains to comprehend, and empathy enough to know that there’s nothing seditious about wanting my wife and child to know I’m safe. Just ask the little boy if he’ll do me a favour and my wife Hanna will give him something nice like an apple or maybe a date, I think there should be at least one left in a box on top of the long press, tell him to tell her. And perhaps you’d ask him to tell her I love her. Life-love. Liove. Em, no, forget about that, too complicated, just love will do.
Ninth Station. The Guardroom, 9pm, Easter Tuesday.
Seven of us interrogate him, and he doesn’t flinch. —You were carrying rebel posters, admit it! —The posters are nothing to do with rebels or anything but me and the organisation I set up today called the Citizens Committee against Looting. That means me. I am the Citizens Committee against looting. Because no one else turned up! I intended to put up posters, but it was too dangerous, so I decided to go home. I was not pleased, as I like to be at the centre of things. —I saw two priests attack you in Kingsbridge Station during the lockout a couple of years ago. —Yes, they said I was doing Satan’s work by bringing some workers’ hungry children to be well fed in the safety of Kildare until the lockout dispute was resolved. When the children tried to stop the priests from kicking me to death, this was taken as proof I was indeed the devil’s advocate. —I was the one who picked you up. —Were you? Well thank you, belatedly. I survived, as you can see, thanks to my padding. —Padding? —My father’s cricket padding, fitted to protect the stomach and kidneys. I wear it under my clothes whenever I’m at risk of a clobbering. —Are you wearing it now? —Yes. What bits of it are left.
—That’s a rebel uniform. We have spent two years risking our lives and the lives of our men, many horribly slaughtered, and you prance around in your homegrown uniform and stab us in the back. Lieutenant! Strip this hairy Jaysus of his rebel robes!
An order is an order. When it’s all stripped off And the stupid bits of cork are scattered on the floor I bend him over while we kick his legs apart and we get him to sing God Save The King but he won’t so we have to make him…
The Three Graces twirl with their berry-food at hand… Fingers touch, a gentle stroke… there’s Hanna the first grace bringing sacks of flour to the rebels at the back of the College of Surgeons. Hanna, the time we went up the mountains to Tibradden and lay down in the grassy gap in the secret clumps of heather and looked at the smoky city below and pointed out the landmarks Rathmines Church with its big green dome, and the Wellington Monument in the Phoenix Park and my Ibsen one… you laughed… up here up in the Freudian heather… And there’s James Connolly, the second grace, tucking into his rations in the GPO. James, the meeting we spoke at during the Lockout was broken up. We lashed the reins of the horse and the platform we spoke from took off through the lines of police—giddy-up! How you laughed, Frank and James, James and Frah… And there’s James Joyce, the third grace, hobnobbing in Zurich, regaling his companions with his latest risqué ballade:
Connaissez-vous l’histoire, d’un vieux curé de Paris, d’un vieux cu-, d’un vieux cu-, d’un vieux curé de Paris.
Joyce, the day we carried our eighty copies of Two Essays away from the printer in a borrowed wheelbarrow and across the little bridge in Stephen’s Green our first published works: ‘The Day Of The Rabblement’ by J.A. Joyce and ‘A Forgotten Aspect of the University Question: The Unequal Treatment of Women’ by F. J. C. Skeffington. Everyone raved about your rambling piece with hazy references to Giordano Bruno, the heretic burned at the stake in Rome, with a dagger through his cheeks, and a dagger through his jaw and tongue… a muting crucifixion! Bru-no! Bru-No! Bru-! Tie him up! Use your rifle pull-through! That’ll teach the pacifist! Knickerbocker-kick! Get up!
Tenth Station: Rathmines Road, 10pm, Easter Tuesday.
We go out the gatepost and onto Rathmines Road. Three men on the far side! Halt! Captain roughs them up so they spread the word the army are out and we mean fucking business. One of them starts walking away… —Halt! Name?
—Martial Law is declared! Why are you out!? An altarboys’ meeting!? In Rathmines Church!? There’s been a sniper in your church’s belltower. The captain shoots him in the head. Blood pours.
—That’s what we do to our enemies. We smite them. So the Bible’s Book of Isaiah says. God save the king!
Hairy Jaysus bursts free, but his hands are tied behind his back so he kneels down and lays his head on the boy’s chest and he starts to howl an atheist prayer!
—Our father, who art in Heaven, will someone staunch the bloodflow!?
He tries to use his face to do it, the fucking clown! The Captain wrenches him up by the pull-through.
—One more WORD out of you, Hairy Jaysus, and we’ll call around to your wife in 10 Grosvenor Square.
When she opens the door I’ll plug you in the head like I plugged him and then we’ll shoot her twice in the belly so she dies slowly in great pain, ‘cos you’re all up to your eyes in it. You are all our enemy and we will smite you! God save the King!
Eleventh Station: Kelly’s the second time, 11pm, Easter Tuesday.
I keep prodding the prisoner ‘cos the swollen bollocks makes it hard for him to walk. The captain says if there’s one bullet fired at us to plug this rebel leader Sheehy-Skeffington! Captain’s thrown a bomb into Kelly’s. He charges in with ten men.
—That pub is owned by the loyalist councillor Kelly. You’re attacking the wrong premises!
—Of course you’d say that! You want all the cigars and wine for yourselves when you’re in charge, securing your fucking assets!
—The captain’s murdered once. Look at the blood on my face – that boy’s blood! He’ll murder again. Are you going to just obey!?
—You’ve spoken without permission. Now your wife’s going to get the works.
—Hanna the light… Hanna the word…
—Captain’s back! Found another pair of rebel leaders in there. Tie the three of them together!
Twelfth Station: The road back to Portobello Barracks, Midnight.
—Skeffy! I’m Dickson. They think I’m your rebel accomplice. I’m nothing of the kind! I’m the opposite in fact! I took your posters to print the proclamation of martial law on the backs. Listen to me! I’ll say you gave them willingly… I’ll say it was your idea, that way we back each other up! Fair deal! Nothing to lose! The state of you! Is that your own blood or someone else’s!? —I’m McIntyre. I know I’ve lampooned you in Starlight, Skeffy, several times, but boss’s orders, y’know!? As a journalistic professional I know you understand. This captain’s mixed the Starlight the employers’ paper I edit with the bitch Markievicz’s shabby rag The Spark. Skeffy, tell him I’m no friend of The Spark! I’d piss on it sooner. I’m the Starlight! —Skeffy, I’m Dickson and I’m all for women’s rights. I got engaged last week. Tell them I’m no rebel! —Skeffy, why are you walking so slow, man?
Speed up, they’re prodding me! Why are you gone so quiet!? —Leave him alone! He’s been through the mill. —Hanna my light… Hanna my word… Hanna my light… Hanna my… —Frank? Where are you Frank my crank?
Thirteenth Station: Portobello Barracks, Wednesday.
At 10am the Captain told me to take Sheehy-Skeffington, McIntyre and Dickson to the stoneyard. I did it. The captain told me to get seven men with rifles. I did it. He told me to order the men to go to the wall. Go to the wall! Ready! Present! Fire! The three men fell. One of them still moved. Sheehy-Skeffington.
—I advocate no mere servile lazy acquiescence in injustice. I want to see the age-long fight against injustice clothe itself in new forms, suited to a new age. I want to see the manhood of Ireland no longer hypnotised by the glamour of ‘the glory of arms’, no longer blind to the horrors of organised murder. We are on the threshold of a new era in human history. Nothing can be as it was before. The foundations of all things must be re-examined. Formerly, we could only imagine the chaos to which we were being led by the military spirit. Now we realise it. And we must never fall into that abyss again.
I collected four of the men and I led them back to the stoneyard. I told them to aim at the moving man. He looked at me and said: —liove! —Fire! And I fired a bullet in his head to make sure he was dead.
Fourteenth Station. Grosvenor Square Rathmines, sometime the next day.
—Missus, I was sent by a soldier to say to give me a date they’re in a box on top of the high press for telling you that Hairy Jaysus is in Portobello Barracks. That’s all!
Clip-cloppin along to Glasnevin. Clip-cloppin along to Glasnevin. Just a crate in a cart from Portobello Barracks, to Glasnevin Cemetery. What’s in the crate, Mister? Head down! None of your fuckin business!
—Dear Colonel Maxwell,
It has come to my attention that my son Francis Skeffington’s body lies within the walls of Portobello Barracks. I request to be informed of the conditions requiring to be met for the transportation of my son’s body for burial with Catholic rites in consecrated ground. I assure you any conditions you might reasonably apply will be met by me with discrete compliance. For the sake of my son’s immortal soul, I undertake not to inform his atheist wife Hanna Sheehy. Yours ever, JB Skeffington, Justice of the Peace
There he goes, clip-clopping along to Glasnevin, the bloody buffoon, the anti-looting clown of Easter Week, Frank Sheehy-Skeffington, pacifist, socialist, feminist, atheist, buried forever in sssh… sssh… shovelfuls of discreet compliance and historical heaps of scorn…
As the clay thuds on the crate, Hanna and Owen are held at gunpoint. The captain orders forty men to rifle through the flat. He raids Frank’s study using the key he took from the blood-soaked pocket of the jaunty plus-fours.
James Connolly, facing the firing squad at dawn, asks for Skeffy to be made his literary executor, he’d know how to sell the publishing rights… to be told by Lily—They shot Skeffy, James. Tears pour down his face, tears pour down.
And James Joyce regales his Zurich companions poised to become the most celebrated writer of the age… as the clods of Glasnevin clay become a gigantic mound of collective forgetfulness. And our overseers parade their glorious pomposities with their medals of swaggering impotence pinned in their stiff lapels, we – are – the – gov – ern – ment – and their someone’s-got-to-do-it looks of dogged duty if you only knew as we do the sacrifices made by such as we of another time that we might be free to… parade here in sanctimonious panto-fuckin-mime…
Where are the Skeffys to make them afraid? Where are the cranks, small instruments that make revolutions? Where are the hairy Jaysuses, the way, the light, the truth— the frankness!?
The bluebottle has me shoved against the railings of Rathmines Tech! Where Hanna used to teach! I see her there, at the door, looking at me through her plain round specs! The way she must have looked at Sylvia Beach the publisher of Ulysses, when she sold her Frank’s twenty copies of Two Essays, to pay in part for Owen’s education. James Joyce’s heretical Bruno thunderwords are go!
The bluebottle rips the history sleeping-bag off of me back and fucks it into a skip. That’s enough of that bollocksology he says, as he cuffs me, and shuts me up, and puts me away in a paddy wagon for the greater security of all the AT fuckin Ms of Ireland, that they may dutifully pay the gambling losses of fuck-knows-who… Ireland, unfree, a-fuckin-Boo!